Six months later, I still say it’s better to think with your head than your tire iron
March 15, 2009
March 15, 2009
A few months ago our managing editor Adam Ledlow wrote a blog about the aftermath from the gruesome killing of 22-year old Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba. Although some time has passed since then, I’m sure the horrid details of that killing — McLean was stabbed dozens of times by his murderer Vincent Li and then beheaded him in full view of the bus load of horrified people – have ensured that it will long remain in our memory.
As you will recall, long haul trucker Christopher Alguire became an overnight hero when after noticing trouble on the bus, he managed to corral many of the passengers to a safe location and then helped barricade the door to prevent the suspect from escaping. Heroic deeds indeed, I absolutely agree.
However, Alguire couldn’t let it end there. Soon after he was criticizing the RCMP for not shooting and killing the suspect after the fact. In his own words: “I told the cops a few different times to shoot him, because he has no reason in this world to live anymore.” Now that made him even more of a hero in the eyes of many. And when Adam took trucker Alguire to task over his heated words, pointing out police are trained to deal with such situations and a “shoot first and ask questions later” approach is not part of their training and that someone trained as a professional driver, no matter how heroic his initial actions, has no place trying to act as “judge, jury and executioner”, he received a number of vitriolic responses from readers.
“The punishment should fit the crime- a life for a life. Then maybe, just maybe some might think twice before they commit some of the atrocities that we read about everyday,” said one reader. “Shame on you for causing even a sliver of doubt towards the integrity of a hero,” chastised another. Yet another stated: “What this country needs is more Mr. Alguires! Truckers who are eager to lend their tire iron at the first glimpse of carnage.”
Things got worse when I joined the fray with a blog arguing that we should choose our “heroes” more carefully. I reasoned that I if one takes the time to really think about it, rather than speak from emotion, although Alguire’s willingness to help was certainly heroic, his criticism of the RCMP’s action was shameful. And so were the remarks of those who supported his views. I received several phone calls from readers who had a few let’s say “choice” words in response. My remarks showed I was “too left”, too naïve”, “too weak-kneed”, “too quick to defend murderers”, and a few more descriptions best not repeated here. I also received the usual thinly veiled racist comments about the incident (“We should send him back to where he came from and let them finish him off.”)
More than six months have passed since that gruesome event and the killer Vincent Li has since appeared in court and found not criminally responsible because of a severe mental illness. Psychiatrists testified at his trial that he was suffering from schizophrenia and believed the voice of God ordered him to kill Tim McLean because the young man was a source of evil. In other words, Vincent Li is a very sick man. His first words in court were “Please kill me.” A criminal review board will now determine how he will be institutionalized. As long as he remains dangerous due to his illness, he will likely be locked away for the rest of his life. Of course, many thought this was a sham and thought our legal system once again favored the criminals over the victims.
What happened to Tim McLean was both unfortunate and tragic. Neither he nor his family deserved such a horrible fate. But six months removed from the emotion behind the incident, I still think my comments at the time make the most sense.
While I understand that most in that situation, myself included, caught in the emotion of the event, would have wanted to pull the trigger, becoming a society of vigilante justice will not make us safer. We employ professionally trained police officers to handle such situations without emotion that clouds judgement and we should allow them to do their job.
This is not being weak, as many claim it to be. This is not protecting the criminals rather than the victims. This is being reasonable. This is thinking with your head instead of your hormones and tire iron. Would it have been better, as many had suggested back then, to shoot Vincent Li as an act of revenge? (his victim was already dead, killing him would have only stopped the dismemberment of Tim McLean). Would it have been better to shoot first and find out later we had shot someone suffering from a mental illness?
I know many of you will disagree with me, but I’m sticking with my initial stance on this.
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis